I always look back at my mother's real estate business. Every experience growing up has absolutely defined who I am. I swore, after watching my mother build her empire, I myself would never be a business owner. I watched her work endlessly, never missing an opportunity to hand out her card and talk real estate. Whether we were at the grocery store, the post office or having our teeth cleaned, my mother was "helping people's dreams come true" through home ownership. She never turned off. Ever.
As a kid, it was painful. I recall being at Rosenblatt's Department Store and I was being fitted for shoes. The man was somehow getting a pep talk from my mother on how to "put a little money aside" so he wasn't "paying so much in rent" and "he could start to get ahead in life." I sat, arms crossed, as it took over 1 hour to try on 1 lousy pair of Buster Browns! I had my agenda and it had nothing to do with listening to my mother school this shoe salesman on the rest of his life. Besides, I was just old enough at that time to realize that had I decided that I would be selling shoes, I would be wrapped in one of those conversations at the dinner table. (I had, at the time, recently announced that I wanted to be the first female truck driver - it didn't go very well.)
That shoe salesman thought he saw Mother Theresa that day. My mother inspired him. She gave him hope beyond stinky kid feet. He ended up at our kitchen table a couple years later buying a mobile home. The next year, a condo. Before we knew it he was my mother's top agent.
Here I am, 35 years later, running my own business. After 23 years climbing the corporate ladder and making 4 times what my mother would have ever expected for herself, I realized I was missing something really important. I was missing what my mother had when she ran her business. Passion for what I was doing. Today I have that passion. Every day I get a call from a small business owner who my company has helped. I don't believe I would be as successful today had I not realized this lesson from my mother.
My mother really knew she was making dreams come true and helping people break through perceived glass ceilings. She wasn't selling real estate, she was selling her ability to find a way to make it happen for the most unlikely of people. When she spoke, her true caring self had shone through. That true, genuine passion is why people bought houses from her. Nothing else. I don't remember fancy ads or PR events. I remember a mother who had lost her child a year earlier showing up at the office because my mother gave this stranger a rose on Mother's Day.
Businesses lose their way because they're trying to "Wow!" their prospective customers. I see it every day. I see advertising budgets and ubiquitous networkers downing free hordorves and passing out business cards like they were lollipops at daycare. Businesses fail and struggle because they get lost in the reward and forget why the journey is so important.
It's not a numbers game, it's a relationship game. It's about knowing why you're in it (your higher purpose) and knowing why that's important to your prospective customer. It's shared passion! When you and a prospective client share a common passion, it's easy. When you try to be everything to everyone, you become exhausted and lack authenticity.
With that said, here are the lessons I hold dear:
1. Connect deeply with your passion and don't be afraid to share it, it's contagious.
2. It is in giving that you recieve.
3. Never underestimate the power of even the most trivial relationships.
To your success,
Colleen Ferrary, Founder of Small Business CT/USA